Naturalists will be drawn to Stewart Island, 30 mi/50 km south of Invercargill, just off the southern tip of New Zealand's South Island. About 85% of the island is designated as the Rakiura National Park, which has New Zealand's highest level of conservation protection.
This sparsely populated and isolated island is one of the country's best-kept secrets. It's primarily a haven for seals and abundant bird species (including albatrosses, kiwis and several kinds of penguins). The island also has salmon farms, wind-sculpted forests, lots of sand dunes and beautiful beaches (more than 160 mi/280 km of coastline). There are more kiwis on Stewart Island than there are people, making it one of the best places in New Zealand to see these iconic birds in the wild. Mason Bay and Ocean Beach are the prime kiwi-watching sites.
Most of the facilities are at Halfmoon Bay, a town on the northeastern part of the island. Be aware that accommodations tend to be rudimentary. Stewart Island is also a starting point for trips to the bird sanctuary on nearby Ulva Island. To reach Stewart Island, you can take a catamaran from Invercargill or arrive by plane.
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